How to Overcome Childhood Trauma

Trauma suffered during childhood can create physical, emotional and mental damage that can last a lifetime. But there are ways to overcome it, which differ depending on the intensity of the trauma experienced, the child’s environment and other factors.

Many children and adolescents who experience a traumatic event will be resilient to the trauma, and return to their normal levels of functioning several weeks after the event, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). However, children who experience more than one traumatic event will likely have a harder time coping with the trauma. Similarly, the more severe the experience, the higher the chance the child will hold on to that traumatic memory. It will also be harder for them to let it go—especially if they do not receive professional help or support right away.

A child who does not receive treatment or therapy after experiencing an initial traumatic event is also more likely to experience trauma as an adult, as the fundamental sense of fear and helplessness never goes away, according to Help Guide. They are also more likely to experience severe health problems as an adult, including heart and lung disease, diabetes, asthma, depression and obesity, according to a new study conducted in Oregon and California.


Image Divergent fotograph / Shutterstock

A child’s environment, family support, severity of ongoing stressors, prior exposure to trauma can all impact the recovery process, according to the APA. If these factors are both strong and positive, it can speed up recovery. However, if those factors are negative, it can have the opposite effect. If symptoms become severe, therapists who specialize in trauma should be sought out.

Treatment and healing from a traumatic event (or several) involves dealing with the related feelings and memories, learning to regulate strong emotions, and rebuilding trust in people. These tools can be developed in therapy and counselling—talk to a doctor or mental health/trauma specialist about different options for a child who has experienced a traumatic event.

Featured image Martin Novak